US cable brands SDLP leader 'wooden'

Published Tuesday, 31 May 2011
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Diplomacy was abandoned in a US cable which questioned the leadership of the SDLP's Margaret Ritchie and branded her "wooden", according to the latest WikiLeaks revelations.

The comments - made by current US Consul General in Belfast, Kamala Lakhdir, and circulated to the US embassies in Dublin and London, the State Department in Washington and the National Security Council - were published by the Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday.

Ms Lakhdir noted that the SDLP leader did not impress consulate officials and said she "does not possess the rhetorical skills of her predecessor Mark Durkan".

Margaret Ritchie was also considered to be "burdened with what some deem an unpleasant speaking voice" and lacking the "political muscle and business acumen" to rebuild the SDLP post-John Hume.

Ms Ritchie's party colleague and one-time leadership rival Alasdair McDonnell also came in for criticism, in correspondence between party insiders and US officials - with speculation he lost out in last year's SDLP leadership battle due to his "bull-in-a-china-shop" approach.

The revelations come in the wake of a disappointing election campaign for the party, which saw them lose two seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

But Ms Ritchie - whose damning indictment from US quarters was off-set with admissions she was "seen as an earnest and honest politician" - topped the poll in South Down.

Also among the files obtained from whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks are cables claiming the DUP and Sinn Féin were involved in direct talks three years prior to the restoration of power-sharing and details of the importance of the security situation in Northern Ireland to officials in the US.

While the latest leaks may make uncomfortable reading - and have prompted fresh denials from the DUP of secret talks with Sinn Féin - it is understood there are more to come.

In a statement, the US State Department said it doesn't comment on classified documents and that it takes its responsibility for the privacy of those it engages with very seriously.

WikiLeaks: NI Cables

  • Direct talks between DUP and Sinn Féin from 2004-2006, prior to St Andrews Agreement
  • Peace process fears after Massereene murders - US officials viewed footage within hours
  • NI still a security issue for Washington - analysts monitoring PSNI anti-terror ops
  • US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requested security briefings
  • Washington urged to encourage Sinn Féin support for police
  • White House briefed about Mary McAleese's talks with loyalist paramilitaries
  • US diplomats still acting as brokers between parties
© UTV News
Comments Comments
Mr K in Limavady wrote (1,271 days ago):
Let me put it like this, shes no Jim Allister!
joe in belfast wrote (1,272 days ago):
Direct talks between DUP and Sinn Féin from 2004-2006, prior to St Andrews Agreement...... no surprise with the Duppers, anything for power and money.
lorna in limavady wrote (1,272 days ago):
So it doesn't matter how honest a person or a party is if they don't have communication skills and appear "wooden" thats a disadvantage. It must be for leaders of a party to get lessons on how to improve their voices instead of being a define leader and work for the people. All the lessons Sinn Fein has given their politicians have paid off. It is not because of their involvment in terror that has brought them to the top- its because they are not "wooden "
John in new york wrote (1,272 days ago):
My feelings exactly, shallow though they may be...... she really is hard to listen to...
Iseult in NI wrote (1,272 days ago):
I'm a unionist but I like Margaret Richie and think she's someone most people in NI trust. As for her speaking voice, there's nothing wrong with it - what on earth are they on about? I don't know why we pay so much attention to American politicians anyway - most of them couldn't run a creche, let alone a political party or a country. As for the DUP and Sinn Fein talking or whatever, can't we just look forward not back? Why do people get so hot and bothered by things that are in the past?
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